Today my dad is being sworn in as a judge. He’d prefer not to have the spotlight on him, and if I tried to say something nice to his face, he would most likely crack a joke. So I’m writing down my words to him instead.
Dad, you have always been the one in the stands, cheering for your kids. You still have your “wall of fame” in your office, plastered with yellowed newspaper clippings you saved about our sports events and academic endeavors, along with the calendar we made for you years ago with pictures of us as kids. We’ve tried to tell you that the dates are all wrong now, but you insist on keeping it up.
You were our biggest fan, the dad who would leave work early so he could be there for every game and meet and recital. I always looked up to your spot in the bleachers, and without fail I’d find you there, giving me the secret family signal.
And now here we are in the audience as you stand at the front of the courtroom in a black judge’s robe with your hand on a Bible, so official as you get sworn in.
Before each of my basketball games, you’d give me a pre-game talk. Don’t be afraid to shoot. Be smart. This is your game. Think! The talk always ended with your trademark fist bump. And now, what words can I offer you on this day, as you prepare to discern cases and bring justice to your corner of the world?
I know that God has already given you what you need for this role. I know, because I’ve been on the receiving end of your judicial gifts my whole life. Whenever I had a decision to make, I’d ask you what to do. I was convinced you knew everything, but (to my consternation) you never told me what to do. You’d help me work through it myself and then tell me, “Now go ask your mother.” And whenever I flubbed up, you gave me that rare combination of truth and love, justice and compassion.
So all I have for you in this pre-game moment is a prayer. A prayer that you will lean into this call you’ve been given. A prayer that you will spread your wings inside that judge’s robe and find that it was made precisely to fit you. A prayer that you will have the wisdom of Solomon to get to the heart of things. A prayer that your gavel will be part of making the Kingdom come in this world.
I will be in the stands, cheering you on.